Archives for posts with tag: craft beer

Ninkasi Brewing Company of Eugene, Oregon teamed up with the Civilian Space eXploration Team and Team Hybriddyne to launch some live yeast to space, bring it back to Earth, and then brew beer with it…

…A truly successful space beer in their minds would taste no different from beer on Earth. While it is fun to imagine that exposure to radiation in space could result in some mutations in the yeast that would lead to some truly extraterrestrial beer, the challenge that interests Ninkasi is protecting the yeast from the perils of a space mission.

“Our biggest concern with the yeast was radiation. On Earth we’re protected from the sun’s radiation, and up in space you don’t have that atmosphere to protect you,” Ninkasi’s lab technician Dana Garves said.

– “The Quest to Brew Beer With Space Yeast” by Betsy Mason for wired.com

To be honest, tasting beer made with yeast that has been to space isn’t a huge deal to me. It seems like more of gimmick. Unless there is a notable, taste-altering mutation. The part that really grabs me is the idea of using the beer-making process to produce a safe, potable beverage in harsh, alien environments, as has been done throughout human history. That is fascinating.

Barley has already been grown on the International Space Station. Sapporo made a beer from that barley in 2008. On his WordPress, Dr. Ian O’Neill, a Senior Producer at Discovery News, takes the point a little further…

This is another step in the direction of a reduced dependence on Earth for the supply of food. If a Japanese brewery can produce 100 litres of beer from ingredients grown in space, we’ve made an important leap into the production of other consumables from ingredients grown in space. Imagine what this means for the future of mankind when we begin setting up colonies on the Moon and, eventually (in my lifetime I hope!) on Mars. The vision of cultivating food on other planets becomes one step closer to reality.

Mission One was ultimately unsuccessful in that the location systems on the rocket failed and it couldn’t be found for 27 days. The yeast had a viability lifespan of only 8 hours. Thus, it couldn’t be used for brewing once the brewery got their box back. However, it still has lessons for the lab scientists to learn, regardless of it being viable for beer production.

Mission Two will take flight in October.

More information can be found on the project website at http://nsp.ninkasibrewing.com

The second in a two-part Summer Vacation series. The first was posted yesterday.

This summer, our family vacation destination was Mammoth Lakes, famous for Mammoth Mountain, a popular spot in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter season.  It’s not a highly populous town; as of 2010, there were just over 8,200 year-round residents. But, it’s not hard see where the seams might be busting during those four or five weeks a year when thousands upon thousands drive in to take advantage of the skiing conditions. In the warmer months, however, the atmosphere is slow and relaxed, as every good mountain town should be. 

Mammoth Mountain during the summer months, from the peak. Photo by FtB.

I titled this post, “The Local Brewery in Mammoth Lakes, CA…” because I think calling a place “the local” implies a sense of pride and commitment to your community. I believe Mammoth Brewing Company embodies that concept of “the local.” It would seem that there’s a level of acceptance on the part of the residents that this business is part of the social fabric of the town. For my part, I saw MBC out and about at town functions, the local grocery store had a highly visible and proud display of the brewery’s bottled options, they were a fixture on local restaurant tap lists, and they were organizing and sponsoring their yearly festival, Bluesapalooza. While we didn’t get there at the correct time to take part in the event, the posted schedule and resulting Instagrams paint a picture of a popular and well-attended festival with a wealth of good food and great music. Plus, there was a whopping list of over sixty participating breweries on the website. If you happen to have spent time in small towns, you’ll understand what it means to say thedrugstore or the hardware store, etc. It’s not special because of what it does, per sé, but rather because it’s a member of the family. In any case, that’s what I gather from Mammoth Brewing Company and the town of Mammoth Lakes. Maybe I’m wrong…but I hope I’m not (and I don’t think that I am).

Photo by FtB.

The brewery opened in 1995 and has been under its current ownership since 2007. Since then, they have quadrupled in size and are on track to brew more than 8,000 barrels per year. Recently, MBC has brought together brewing facility and tasting room in their location on Main Street/Lake Mary Road and Minaret Road. In coming together, though, they are stuffed to the gills with fermenters – some are outside, no doubt taking advantage of the cool climate. If MBC continues at their current growth pace, I would guess there would need to be some serious infrastructural changes. Outside, there’s a new beer garden, which, while it more or less amounts to an outdoor seating area in an unused section of the parking lot, is a welcome feature in a town with so much scenery in the background.

Of their “Original” lineup, I tasted the Real McCoy Amber Ale, Double Nut Brown and IPA 395. The Real McCoy is somewhat confusingly listed as an “American Amber/Red Ale” despite the fact that it won a bronze medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup for “German-Style Brown Ale/Düsseldorf-Style Altbier.” I suppose its because they’ve used the herbal and nectar-y sweet Palisade hop variety, which comes from the Yakima, Washington region (though Pallisade does share some characteristics of German Noble hops). The yeast might tell more of the story, as well, although it is unlisted. Whatever the case may be, this beer had a smooth, velvety malt palate, which made me think it had spent some time in a relatively cool conditioning tank (a trait of the Düsseldorf Alt style). The result was a very pleasant, mellow drinkability, without much in the way of fruity esters, that could have long accompanied our lazy nights of card games. Double Nut Brown, also confusingly named as it uses no nuts in the brewing process nor is it a brown ale usually noted for a certain amount of nuttiness, but rather it is a brown porter with notes of mildly sweet, dark chocolate and coffee with a roasty dryness. This beer is also a medal winner having taken home a gold in the 2012 World Beer Cup in the Brown Porter category. IPA 395, a double India Pale Ale brewed with Millenium and Centennial hops, chooses not to go for the knockout bitterness punch, though at 8.0% ABV it is deserving of the double IPA style moniker. The orange-y, citrus-y, earthy aroma is made more complex with additions of desert sage and juniper.  Compared to the aggressive West Coast double IPAs I’m used to, this was a nice change of pace. 

The tasting room. The brewing facilities are directly behind me. Photo by FtB.

Also available in the tap room were a number of one-offs and seasonals, which I took the opportunity to sample. El Capitan was a variation on the IPA 395 theme with the addition of brown sugar in the boil. It was distinctly stronger and more syrupy than its cousin, headed into barleywine territory. Wild Sierra, one MBC’s bottled seasonals, was a floral farmhouse saison with a prickly mouthfeel. They had a stout on nitro,Black Bear Stout. It had a soft and creamy mouthfeel while still relatively light. I noted that it would be an excellent choice for an ice cream-beer float. My personal favorites of their seasonals were Dos Osos, Blondibock and Bear Garden. The base of Dos Osos was a Mexican lager (I’ll assume by that, they mean a Vienna lager) with an addition of cold-pressed coffee in the lautering stage and lagered with cinnamon, cocoa and vanilla bean. The beer had a subtle roast that was nicely rounded with a medium body and carbonation level, I couldn’t help but think of it as a schwarzbier with a bit of spice. I’m told the use of cold-pressed coffee results in a roastiness without the normally associated acrid or burnt notes. If true, the effect worked here, I really liked this beer despite my usual aversion to coffee. There was apparently a variation on Dos Osos seen in last year’s Tres Osos, which featured the inclusion of tequila-soaked wood chips during the lagering stage. Color me curious. Bear Garden, this year’s official Bluesapalooza beer, was brewed in the Kölsch style with additions of rose hips, jasmine, and lavender (you could call it a “floral bomb,” if there were such a thing…there is now). These played nicely with the bready malt notes, light esters and dry, white wine-like finish. Blondibock, one of Mammoth’s annual releases, is a blonde bock (usually similar to a Maibock) aged for three months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Admittedly when the server said “three months in the barrel”, I wasn’t that impressed. We beer folk are accustomed to barrel-aging periods of 12 months or more. But of course on tasting, my first reaction was “Wow! Three months was enough!” There were BIG notes of vanilla and bourbon with a with a smooth, toasty, slightly caramelly maltiness with the hops delegated only to a restraining role. From the alcoholic heat, I expected an ABV of at least 10% but was pleasantly surprised to see it rang in at 7.5%. I suppose the beer being a blond bock meant there wasn’t much of a deep malt profile to compete with the bourbon character of the barrel. Normally, a barrel-aged beer such as a stout for instance, has more dark malts to outdo in order for the barrel notes to be noticeable. The nice tasting room staff lady told me these barrels had come directly from aging bourbon without being used for anything else in between. This stood in contrast to the versions from previous years, which had third-or-more use barrels and subsequently, subtler bourbon character.

And of MBC’s house-made root beer, our six year old, who considers himself a connoisseur, had a whole growler to himself to form his opinion. He had this to contribute, “It’s rooty and beery.” My fiancé added, “It makes you never want canned root beer again.” Apparently, teetotalers need not feel left out.

As a final sidenote: Mammoth Brewing Company just posted an event on the Facebook page for a Hop Picking Party, next week on August 17. In exchange for 5 pounds of hops picked, you get a ticket to their Hops and Sage Fest (two of the ingredients in IPA395), three allocated bottles of Owen’s Valley Wet Harvest Ale and a free pint and barbecue in their tasting room.  I may have gone on record as not being a hophead but wet harvest pale ales and IPA’s (using fresh, non-dried hops, thus “wet”) are completely different.

Does anybody want to take another trip to Mammoth with me? Say…next week?

The Minarets from the peak of Mammoth Mountain. Photo by FtB.

The Minarets from the peak of Mammoth Mountain. Photo by FtB.

Mammoth Brewing Company can be found online at http://www.mammothbrewingco.com. They’re also on Instagram, @mammothbrewing.

ferretthebeer.com

Link to article on LATimes.com

“Most won’t say it,” [Harry Schuhmacher, publisher of trade journal Beer Business Daily] explained, “but water is a major reason craft beer behemoths such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium opened plants in Asheville,” on the western edge of North Carolina. “It’s no coincidence that big brewers are congregating around the Smoky Mountains’ substantial water supply.”

I was JUST talking about natural resource availability and growth in craft beer.  Here is a more official-sounding point of view in a major publication to make the issue seem more important.

The first in a new series for Ferret the Beer. It’s continuing mission to explore strange new beer terms, to seek out new concepts and new stylizations, to boldly go where no beer person has gone before.

[I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately…]

[Etching of the Bass Union system. Via beerbrewer.blogspot.com]

The Burton Union system is a system of wooden fermentation vessels used predominantly by the brewers in and around Burton-on-Trent, England in the mid to late 1800s.  This network usually consists of 24-60 large wooden barrel casks (about 150 gallons/ea) laid on their side in rows, suspended off the floor. These barrels are linked together so that wort/beer can be evenly dispersed throughout the Union. At the top of the barrels is a swan neck pipe that connects to a trough suspended over the barrels. This trough, being slightly pitched to one end, is connected to another feeder trough so that the wort/beer can be re-circulated into the barrels.

Actively fermenting wort (usually 12-24 hours after adding the yeast) is fed into the Union, via gravity, from the primary fermentation vessels. As the yeast continues consuming the sugars, it is forced out of the top of the barrels through the swan necks in foamy bursts. The beer runs down the trough, into the feeder vessel and back into the casks to continue its fermentation, all the while leaving behind a large amount of its healthy, viable yeast. This yeast is collected and the beer subsequently becomes steadily brighter and brighter. After about 6 days in the Union, the beer is drained from the barrels and moved to a finishing vessel whereby it’s blended with other beer or packaged.

The most notable users of the Burton Union System were the Bass Brewery and Marston’s Brewery. Unfortunately, it is a labor and capital-intensive process, requiring constant maintenance and, thus, all but one British brewery has abandoned this approach. Marston’s still uses their Union largely for the production of their flagship beer, Pedigree Bitter.

Burton_Union_fermentation_system,_Coors_Visitor_Centre_-_geograph.org.uk_-_476438

[Modernized Burton Union system seen in Burton-on-Trent at the National Brewery Centre, formerly the Bass Brewery museum and Coors Visitor Centre. Bass has been owned by Molson Coors since 2002. Image via Wikipedia.org]

Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, CA, operates a modified Burton Union System, calling it Firestone Union. Besides Marston’s, they are recognized as being the only other brewery using a Union Set today. Where Marston’s chooses to use barrels that are more neutral in character, Firestone uses heavy or medium toast American oak barrels to impart a wood flavor to the beer. According to the brewery, this process “improves the fullness of the palate, enhances hop maturity and lends a clean briskness to the finish. The influence of the toasted oak also imparts unique hints of smokiness and vanilla, as well as a subtle fruitiness to the flavor profile.” The beer that most benefits from this effect is their flagship, DBA (Double Barrel Ale). They choose not to collect the yeast or foam that comes out of the fermenting vessels for re-use.

Additional links:

  1. Michael Jackson’s 1992 article on Marston Brewery’s Burton Union System that was going through an expansion at the time
  2. Firestone Walker’s webpage on their Firestone Union System
  3. A video from 2009 where then-head brewer (now-brew master), Matthew Brynildson, discusses the Union process (specifically starts at about 2:20) (via beervana.blogspot.com)

Sources

  1. The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garret Oliver, 2011. “Burton Union system” article by Matthew Brynildson
  2. http://www.firestonebeer.com/brewery/firestone-union.php

Do you have any ideas or requests for the BREW LEXICON series? Let me know in the Comments!

https://www.hopunion.com/aroma-wheel/

This is all available in a few different places but it’s still a pretty handy online tool.

http://www.brewersassociation.org/insights/non-beer-bubble-part-deux/

So despite my earlier efforts to dispel the notion that the number of breweries in this country represents some sort of bubble, “are we at the saturation point?” or “is this a beer bubble?” continues to be the most popular media question I field. While I’m a bit hurt that the mass media doesn’t read the blog, here goes round two in dispelling the notion that reaching 3,000 breweries means the country simply can’t take any more. It all stems from a simple concept:

MOST BREWERIES ARE SMALL AND LOCALLY FOCUSED…

Recommended article to check out.

Watson certainly makes a compelling argument and with the data shown, understanding his view is pretty much a no-brainer.

A couple points that came to mind…

  • New growth cannibalizing the existing craft beer drinker base that may not want to grow as fast (or steadily) as the number of breweries opening or beer brewed. I guess maintaining quality and innovation is the answer to this one. Oh, and craft beer fans not being judgmental/elitist towards macro fans and thus, turning them away forever, from the possibility of switching teams.
  • Distribution of natural resources. There’s only so much grain and hops available for brewing. The fact of “higher quality” in craft beer is that uses a dramatically higher amount of malt and hops than macro brews (who use additional adjuncts in place of a large percentage of barley and, in general, don’t try to achieve the same level of bitterness while also using more efficient, downstream hop products). Hop shortages of popular varieties are already beginning to happen. And I wonder about the same thing happening with grain in the future. This is to say nothing of water. Even the most efficient breweries I’ve heard of (Full Sail and Alaskan Brewing Co) use 2.5 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of finished beer. Macros are working on getting their ratio down to 3.5 gallons for 1 gallon of finished beer and the industry average is about 5 to 1 (meaning some are worse). This also doesn’t take into consideration the amount of water used to grow the grain and hops.

I don’t think there’s a bubble, per se, or that it will “burst.” Watson is much smarter than I am and he’s got the numbers to back up his assertion. But I do think there is a ceiling craft beer will come up against, in some form or fashion, at some point in the not too distant future.

*Source for figures on water usage: http://brewingandsustainability.wordpress.com

BEER IN THE COACHELLA VALLEY

For July 4th, my fiancé and I drove out to the Palm Springs for a weekend away. Somehow, she was convinced to drive me around to a couple breweries on my list to scout out…

La Quinta Brewing Company

Opened in November 2013, La Quinta Brewing Company sits in an unassuming business park in Palm Desert. They have 5 core beers: Poolside Blonde (available in cans), Heatwave Red Ale, One Eleven Pale Ale, Indian Canyon IPA (also available in cans) and Sand Storm Double IPA. Recently, they discontinued their American wheat, Windy Point Wheat. I was told that it couldn’t compete against the Blue Moons and Shock Tops that dominate that segment of their market.

If there’s one standout character from all their beers, it’s the use of hops. Their brewmaster is the former assistant brewmaster at Green Flash in San Diego. That should pretty much explain their philosophy to those who are familiar with Green Flash: West Coast to the bitter end.

Hardware-wise, they’ve got a fifteen bbl brewhouse with enough capacity for five thousand barrels per year. From what the bartender was saying, they’re a good percentage over that thus far. To help, they’ve just ordered two new 30 barrel fermenters and one 15 barrel fermenter. By year’s end, they hope to be canning all of their core beers and to have gotten their barrel-aging program underway. All of this to address one of their biggest issues: the relationship with their distributor, Heimark. Heimark, being the main distributor of AB in the valley, has a substantial network but their size dictates a certain amount of difficulty in dealing with the little guys. They keep asking for more but LQBC just can’t deliver, at the moment. Seeing as they have only one brewer with no assistants, the growth that is planned (and needs to happen) sounds like a tall order. But, we’ll hope for the best.

Not being much of a serious hops enthusiast, their Heatwave Red Ale, Indian Canyon and Sand Storm Double IPA were not my cup of tea, though I did appreciate their resolute point of view. Rather, Poolside Blonde and One Eleven Pale Ale were more in my wheelhouse. Balanced, crisp and refreshing – well-suited for the desert sun.

Coachella Valley Brewing Company

Despite a grand opening on August 30, 2013, only 3 months before La Quinta,Coachella Valley Brewing Company, located in another unassuming business park in Thousand Palms, gives off a much more established feeling. This isn’t to say that La Quinta is amateur, it’s clear though, that they are the scrappier of the two. Perhaps, CVB had a bigger bank roll when they started.

Unfortunately, the tap room staff weren’t as willing (or able) to discuss the details of the brewery. Suffice it to say, they have have a 40 bbl brewhouse. The annual capacity was unknown. CVB bottles several of their beers and I was unsure of what their core was, nor their flagship. I sampled: Big Cat Brew (a saison brewed with spices grown at one of the local zoos), Dubbel Date, Desert Swarm (honey double wit), Momentous IPA, Kölschella, Oasis Apple Ale (a blend), Luke Rye Walker (Belgian Rye IPA), and Black & White IPA (another blend). My chosen few were Kölschella, Luke Rye and Black & White. Also bottled but not available on draft are a barrel-aged Quad and a barrel-aged Milk Chocolate Stout.

Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse

Our day was too short to visit Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse but the following day, I did get the chance to grab a pint of their American schwarzbier, Blackfin Lager, for brunch. Looking at the listings on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. But I also believe BeerAdvocate and RateBeer to be full of crap, sometimes. Like in this case. To my taste buds, it was the preferred beer of all that I tasted over the weekend. This brisk lager sported some rich (but not too rich) caramel and roasty accents with just enough hop character to keep it all in check. If it’s any consolation, this beer has several medals to its name. So…to hell with internet ratings.

Last weekend was the grand opening for MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley). I was slacking a bit and didn’t want to carry my Canon around so I grabbed the wide angle adapter for my phone and snapped a few pics here and there.

I don’t think I could have predicted how popular this new brewery seems to be. I’ve been looking forward to it for months but I would have thought I’d be in the minority. Their specialty being British-insprired, cask-conditioned ales better known for their subtlety doesn’t feel compatible with the West Coast IPA’s and BA stouts, etc, that Los Angeles apparently loves. But, I think that’s where the genius of this place lies. Maybe we’re ready for a change. In any case, it was quite the scene. We got there for the 4:00-6:00 block, which was definitely busy but in talking to the food vendors who’d been there all day, it was practically wall to wall for the first 2-3 hours.

I tried The King’s Taxes (Scottish 60/-), The Little Spree (Yorkshire Pale Ale) and Jackie Tar (Brown Stout). My personal favorite was The King’s Taxes but that Jackie Tar (pictured above) certainly had something going for it, as well.

(image from jamesbeard.org)

I avoided work, today, by watching the webcast of the James Beard Awards. Basically, these medals are the Oscars for food world. Really this is all you need to know about them but I’ll go on anyways.

The host is the James Beard Foundation (JBF) whose mission is “to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.” James Beard, the man, was a highly influential chef, writer, and teacher from 1937 up to his death in 1985.

The awards break into 5 classes, so to speak:

  1. Books
  2. Broadcast and New Media
  3. Journalism
  4. Outstanding Restaurant Design
  5. Restaurant and Chef (the big deal)

Overall, the awards skew more towards the food world, however, the beverages still have a place at the table through categories like Outstanding Wine, Spirts, or Beer Professional, Best Bar Program, Best Wine Program and Journalism in Wine, Spirits and Other Beverages.

Looking through the list of winners since the awards’ inception in 1991, I’ve counted over 50 opportunities where a beer professional or beer writer could have been nominated, let alone wine. Wine is without a doubt, the heavy hitter. It took 5 years for beer to even get a point on the board; in 1996, Benjamin Meyers piece, “It Must Be Spring – Bock Is Back” won for Newspaper Writing on Spirits, Wine and Beer. Four years later, we scored one more with Michaeul Skube’s article,”Experiments with Hops, a Welcome Development.” Beer’s first big win came with Fritz Maytag’s 2003 award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional and the next time we got one was for his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Tonight, I drink a Liberty Ale, which seems appropriate to celebrate the Mexican army’s win over the invading French at Puebla.

It should be noted that Beer Folk have gotten into the Semi-Finalist and Finalist rounds. For instance, this is not Oliver’s first nomination and Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head, has been nominated 3 times. So far as as I can tell though, those listed above are the only wins up to this year. For the mathematicians, that’s less than six percent not of the total awards given, but rather, just the awards for which brewers, beer professionals, and/or beer writers could have been nominated. Draw your own conclusions. And somebody else do the math for how many medals Our People have won relative to the total amount of medals given. SPOILER ALERT: it will be a slightly deflating.

(image from firstwefeast.com)

I know Brooklyn Brewery, of which Garret Oliver is the brewmaster, is not the highest rated brewery on Beer Advocate and RateBeer. To my knowledge, they don’t have any highly-sought after beers with a cult following. But is the beer badFar from it. If anything, it seems as though they suffer from lack of flash in the current craft beer market. That’s just conjecture; Stockholm sees more of Brooklyn Brewery than I do in L.A. Anybody who has read Oliver’s The Oxford Companion to Beer, hell, anybody who has picked up the 920 page tome does not question his knowledge of, and passion for, our favorite grain-based beverage (to say nothing of The Brewmaster’s Table, one of my favorite beer books). He is by far one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken beer professionals that comes to my mind. I may only be a guy writing on his dinky Tumblr page at 10:53 PM on Cinco de Mayo 2014 but I think the award is well-deserved. And, if that’s not enough for you, he walked up on stage in a green velvet blazer. Somehow, it looked natural. No small feat.

Here’s to more in the future.

While I’m here, though, the biggest slight I see in regards to the James Beard Award winners lists, besides that whole less than six percent thing: Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson.

Here’s a link to a .pdf with the full list of this year’s winners.

We recently took a family trip to the San Diego area. Specifically, the destination was Carlsbad’s LEGOLAND (!) but we decided to go a couple days early to spend some time in La Jolla and San Diego-proper.

I’m obviously greatly interested in beer but it wouldn’t have been fair to drag the troops from taproom to taproom all over town. So I put on my “I’m An Adult” pants and chose a few beery places that were family-friendly and thus, my hands were washed of guilt as I put a “Problem Solved!” stamp on the issue.

From Los Angeles to San Diego, the drive is somewhere between 1.5-2 hours, depending on exactly where you’re headed. We left around 11:30 with the goal of making it to Pizza Port Carlsbad for a late lunch.

Exterior of Pizza Port Carlsbad

Pizza Port, now five brew pubs strong (as well as a formidable distribution of their core beer line up), was born in 1987 in Solana Beach. Some extra space in the restaurant allowed co-founder Vince Marsaglia to experiment with home brewing which grew in to a commercial brewing facilities in 1992. From there, they opened the Carlsbad location in 1997 and San Clemente in 2003. Just as well, 2003 was also when Solana Beach won “Small Brewpub of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival.” Carlsbad went on to win “Large Brewpub of the Year” in 2009. I could go on to write out all the awards they’ve ever won at the GABF and World Beer Cup but this post would just turn into a long list. Suffice it to say, their beer is of high quality. The Ocean Beach Pizza Port opened in 2010 and Bressi Ranch, which includes their corporate offices and a larger production facility, was completed in 2013.

The Awards Wall

Carlsbad, to its credit I think, has zero sense of pretense. The medals are posted but only on the wall above the bathroom doors in the back corner. It’s a neighborhood pizza joint that happens to serve great beer.

The tap list

Upon entering, it’s obviously a family-friendly environment. There’s a small number of arcade games, a few plasmas, long, communal tables perfect for large groups of people and an outdoor seating area. Beer-wise, I counted 40 taps plus 1 cask. We started with a basket of portzels (pretzels with spent grain from their porter recipe). Our pizza choice was bell pepper, onion, fresh basil on a wheat-spent-grain crust paired with Twerp, a light Belgian-style pale ale ringing in at 4.2%. Light in body but not in flavor, this pleasant brew with its slightly sweet graininess, signature Belgian spiciness and some light fruitiness was a solid pizza beer (I’m trying to get this recognized as an official style). Once I had some food in me, I decided to step up my game with 547 Haight, an Imperial Red. The crisp, citrusy hop presence is significant but there’s a depth of caramelly, toffee-ish malt character that adds some nice balance and keeps things interesting. Next door to the restaurant is a secondary brewing building housing mostly conicals and a bottle shop. Relatively speaking, the shop had the feeling of being an afterthought to take up unused space. The quality of the selection, while not huge, redeemed it.

Exterior of The Museum of Man

Our next beer-related stop was the Museum of Man’s BEERology exhibit in Balboa Park, closer to downtown San Diego. The museum, itself, has several interesting exhibits that kept my family entertained while I dug into the main topic at hand.

Exhibition entrance

I found a relatively small space, maybe 60 feet wide by 30 feet deep. The exhibition designers went with plywood, pops of trendy colors, and modern typefaces. The displays are somewhat simplistic in their explanations but I did find them to present an interesting narrative going back to the beginning of recorded history to reveal the links between beer and the development of culture. As such, it’s not a history of beer, per sé, nor is it a history of culture; it’s a blend of the two.

More energy seems to be dedicated to Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and the Americas, as opposed to the European tradition, which would seem to be too young for the scope of this show. There are glass displays with ancient brewing and drinking vessels and examples of early record keeping. There is a section dedicated to modern homebrewing, which is only fitting as they spend time discussing traditional brewing in the primitive home. Dogfish Head and Karl Strauss being major sponsors are included in the one projected video loop. Sam Calagione’s additions are a couple of his “Quick Sip” videos that can also be found on the DFH YouTube channel while Karl Struss presents a sizzle reel for their 25th anniversary, which is this year.

The many languages of "Beer"

The many languages of “Beer”

Overall, I think the curators achieve their goals, however, the exhibition lacks the depth that would have made it a considerable historical examination. If anything, perhaps this will help larger institutions to realize how interesting and engaging this type of survey could be, if expanded. If you’re already in Balboa Park, BEERology is worth a visit but I don’t think I would recommend going out of your way to see it.

About 10 minutes away, in North Park, was our lunch destination, Waypoint Public. If you’re like our family and have a special affinity for brunch, you might appreciate this trendy, upscale, but approachable, pub. The vibe is breezy, which was reinforced by the garage door walls that were open on this particularly pleasant Sunday. There are 30 taps plus a small bottle list. A projection screen plays Pixar movies viewable by those children playing in a slightly separated area with books and toys (although, I don’t think I would call this a “family restaurant”, they just have an extended tolerance). The menu is not large but there are enough options to keep from feeling limiting, the kids’ portion of the menu could use some help but we made it work. I went with an appetizing BLT featuring avocado and fried green tomato on grilled sourdough with Modern Times’ Fortunate Islands (a pale wheat ale) and Societe’s The Pupil (American IPA). My SO had a breakfast potpie that also looked damn good. She went on to confirm that it was indeed delicious.

Stone World Bistro & Gardens

Our final beer stop before Legoland was Stone World Bistro & Garden, connected to their brewing facility in Escondido. After a sunny afternoon of kayaking, we wanted to appropriately celebrate National Beer Day (or National Session Beer Day, depending on your knowledge of history). While I greatly respect Stone, I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan. I suppose they might say my palate is not “aggressive” enough to really appreciate in their style, however, the photos I’d seen of the restaurant made me want to see how they do “slightly refined.” The space is quite nice especially for easy-going afternoons. There’s a main dining area with a view of the fermenting vessels, an outdoor deck and an attached garden space of a good size featuring a couple small waterfalls, numerous plants big to small, walking paths and scattered seating areas, one could probably find space for a game of bocce. My SO felt that despite these pleasant details, there was still a bit of artifice. I could see where she was coming from as they included two somewhat large patches of artificial turf amongst the “natural” elements, which were manicured just a bit too much. Nevertheless, the overall effect was akin to being in the backyard of a well-to-do neighbor’s home; there are much worse places to spend time. The food was good – definitely a step above standard pub fare. I had brussels sprouts (with bacon, of course) and duck tacos. You’ll have to forgive me as I didn’t note my beer choices but I can say I did find a couple beers that didn’t require an aggressive, bastard-like palate. On the way out, we stopped in the store where you’ll find plenty of swag, a bar for growler fills and a small selection of bottles.

Many thanks to my family for putting up with me. In Los Angeles just 90 minutes away, while we do have great beer, it still seems as though it’s a feature. In San Diego, it’s engrained. For instance, if you’re at the Legoland Hotel, of all places (yes we stayed there – it was his birthday!), you can keep sailing on Modern Times Fortunate Islands but you can also switch to options from Stone, Karl Strauss, or Saint Archer. Anywhere else with the exception of probably Portland or Ashville, this would be unusual. However, San Diego with its 80+ craft breweries, is cold chilling on any given afternoon, quality beer in-hand. Naturally, of course.

Legoland

Legoland

P.S. While I had the chance, I made sure to search out bottles I don’t normally see in the LA area (for the most part). I ended up with the following new additions to my beer closet…

  1. Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo (English Strong Ale)
  2. Trappist Rochefort 10 (Belgian Quad)
  3. Mother Earth Boo Koo (American IPA)
  4. The Lost Abbey Deliverance (Barrel-Aged Strong Ale)
  5. The Lost Abbey Carnevale (Brett Saison)
  6. Dogfish Head Piercing Pils (Czech Pilsner)
  7. Mikkeller Spontanelderflower (Lambic)
  8. Hess Grazias Vienna-Style Cream Ale
  9. Almanac Golden Gate Gose
  10. Stone Matt’s Burning Rosids (Cherrywood-Smoked Imperial Saison)
  11. AleSmith/Eagle Rock Brewery Dairy Tank (Milk Stout)
  12. Square Mile Hopped Apple Cider
  13. Moonlight Meadery Kurt’s Apple Pie